12 Bird-Ready Bottles from a Roast Chicken Pairing Expert
Master Sommelier Alexander LaPratt shows his hand for pairing with roast chicken.
When the power trio behind Brooklyn’s Atrium Dumbo began looking toward what was next, one particular ingredient was on their minds: chicken. “We were looking at the response to the roasted chicken for two that we serve at Atrium, and people were going crazy over it,” says Alexander LaPratt MS. Their newly opened Brooklyn Heights venture, aptly named Beasts & Bottles, puts the rotisserie at the heart of the dining experience. Provence-born chef Laurent Kalkotour is serving up birds that are herb roasted, truffled, or dressed with a chili-ginger-hoisin glaze. And with a Master Sommelier manning the cellar, it’s no surprise that wine features as prominently… but which wines?
“The heritage breeds of chicken we’re working with have so much flavor because of the way they’re raised,” says LaPratt, “so in planning the list, I looked to wines that could match them in intensity and texture.” But chicken is also subtler than steak, so flamboyant styles of wine—anything heavily oaked or tannic—were off-limits. “I immediately thought of Beaujolais and the Rhône Valley,” he says, “and then, I’m a big fan of Champagne in general… but the types of Champagne that are approachable.” The key factor in pairing with the rotisserie, according to LaPratt? Balance.
“These are wines that are more comforting than intellectual,” he adds. “They’re also wines that are great with chicken because they’re great with food.”
Here, LaPratt shares 12 bottles that are built for roast chicken.
1. NV R.H. Coutier Champagne ‘Tradition’ Brut
“The Coutiers own around 9 or 10 hectares, which is not a lot of land; they’re pretty small. Tradition is focused on Pinot Noir, which gives it the power and structure that Ambonnay is famous for, but it has 30% Chardonnay blended in to give it a nice balance of raciness. Pinot-dominant Champagnes tend to work so well with roasted flavors. It can stand up to chicken of course, but also pork and beef… it’s such a versatile wine. And it has a good amount of creaminess. Champagne is something that I love with food to the point that if I’m out at a restaurant and see that they don’t have any Champagnes by the glass, I might think ‘Hmm, maybe this isn’t the place where I’m going to eat tonight.’ You gotta have it.”
2. NV Domaine Léon Boesch ‘Soixante Douze’ Crémant d'Alsace Brut
“This is super off the beaten path, and they don’t make very much of it, but Léon Boesh—in Alsace—is one of my favorite biodynamic producers. The name Soixante Douze comes from the year they started making the cuvée—’72. It’s based on Pinot Blanc, sees some aging in foudres, extended time on the lees, and then is all hand-disgorged, which I think is really cool and a nice testament to the artisanal process of it. In Alsace, you might expect the sparkling wines to be a little thin or acidic, but this one has so much creamy texture and this great green apple fruit. We do a Sasso truffle chicken with a truffle pot pie that’s so good with a sparkling wine like this one.”
3. 2012 Domaine Régnier-David ‘Cuvée de la Guichardière’ Saumur Blanc
“We’re talking 100 percent Chenin Blanc off of a single hectare site that was planted in the early 2000s from a massale selection of cuttings from Domaine Huet—the legendary producer in Vouvray. It’s so good. What I was looking for was great value Chenin that gives you all of that bright acidity, minerality, and honeyed chamomile aromas that the grape is known for but in a fresh style rather than the oxidative style that you might find in appellations like Savennières. This one for me is really a homerun. When you taste it, you get a rocky, salty minerality with all of that Chenin Blanc wrapping.”
4. 2013 Jean-François Ganevat ‘Les Chalasses Vieilles Vignes’ Côtes du Jura
“So, we’re in Brooklyn. Ganevat is hip. We have to have his wines, right? But more importantly, they’re just delicious. Les Chalasses is one of his oldest parcels of Chardonnay, planted around 1902. What I love about it is that it’s super focused. It’s in the ouillé style, so the barrels are topped up—not oxidative like what we think of when we think of the Jura. If you can find whites like this in a fresh style, where they’re topping up, you can get so much minerality out of the soils there. It has great acidity, all these fresh yellow and red apple flavors with a lemony citrus focus, but it’s still round and powerful, with a slight hazelnut quality that’s so good with rotisserie flavors.”
5. 2014 Haden Fig Willamette Valley Chardonnay
“Chardonnay is my favorite grape in the world because it does so many things—it does Champagne, it does Burgundy, and it does wines like this one: good, wholesome, balanced, and honestly-made. The winemaker originally wanted to go to culinary school, met this girl who was studying to become a veterinarian, and they ended up moving to Oregon, where he worked at Evesham Wood—which is one of my favorite Pinot producers. Then, they started to make this small production stuff: all hand-harvested, hand-sorted, whole cluster-pressed, aged in 10 percent new oak to give it that sweet spot of just enough toastiness. If you tasted it blind, you might think it was Meursault; that’s how amazing it is. With chicken, it’s a no-brainer.”
6. 2009 Charles Joguet ‘Les Varennes du Grand Clos’ Chinon
“This single vineyard is one of the best sites in Chinon—a limestone slope just off of the left bank of the Vienne river. They do an extended cold maceration, which might be why it has such great floral characteristics. The 2009, which is the vintage I’m currently pouring, is showing so well. Joguet wines develop really wonderfully—this particular cuvée goes into a lot of that violet floral and wild strawberry fruit, with truffle and undergrowth savory notes, but not too much of that greenness that Cabernet Franc can have. I love it with herb-roasted preparations of chicken. It just has an earthiness that’s made for those flavors.”
7. 2013 Anne-Sophie Dubois ‘Clepsydre’ Fleurie
“Beaujolais is a category I just love, because you get the same amount of minerality and, in many cases, complexity as you do in Burgundy but for a fraction of the price. This is a classic example of that. Anne-Sophie Dubois studied winemaking in Volnay, so around all of this very floral, aromatic Burgundy, and ended up setting up shop in Fleurie—a Beaujolais cru that I’ve always associated with floral character as well. This particular cuvée is from vines that are over 60 years old on all granitic soils. It’s unfined and unfiltered, and on top of those floral notes, it has this sloe berry-dark raspberry-dark cherry fruit, with that granitic character coming through.”
8. 2014 Jean Foillard ‘Côte du Py’ Morgon
“If there’s one name to know in Beaujolais, it’s Foillard; he really influenced a lot of the younger vignerons that are coming up today. And this is his bottling from the iconic Côte du Py, which is one of the best slopes with the best exposure on granite and schist soils. I also think some of the vines are 100 years old—super old. Morgon to me is powerful in a fruit way—as opposed to in a tannic or dense way. I always get this juicy, powerful red fruit. And if you’re looking for one of the most classic roast chicken pairings on this whole list, I would have to say: you couldn’t get more classic than this.”
9. 2013 Franck Balthazar ‘Chaillot’ Cornas
“Syrah is this amazing, versatile grape. It can do everything from light, elegant, and Burgundian in style to deep, rich, and meaty. There are all these inherent roasted, campfire aromas already in the wine, so when you’re doing a rotisserie, it’s just an effortless pairing. Frank Balthazar makes his wine in a very old school way. He plows with a horse, does whole-cluster ferments, ages in old barrels… And this vineyard site—Chaillot—is one of the sites passed down from [Cornas legend] Noël Verset. This bottling has stunning depth of flavor—that red and black cherry, smoke, meat, black olive—and incredible concentration. It’s pretty wild.”
10. 2012 René Rostaing ‘Ampodium’ Côte-Rôtie
“So, this is on the more light, elegant, and ethereal side of the Syrah spectrum… a little closer to Burgundy in style than the Cornas is. René Rostaing inherited these very old parcels in some of the best sites in Côte-Rôtie. Ampodium is the Provençal name for the Ampuis village, which is where all the grapes are planted. It’s another example of the traditional, wild yeast fermentation, using stems method, so it’s really the terroir that makes the difference. This is not rustic Syrah. It would be so good with herb-roasted chicken. It would just kill it. I’d decant it in one of my rooster decanters.”
11. 2005 La Rioja Alta ‘904’ Rioja Gran Reserva
“This is such a good bottle of wine, and one of my favorites to pair with anything. The vines here are 30 to 40 years old, and the wine sees a ton of aging before its release, so it has all these great herbal, leather, and tobacco notes that come out on top of its tart red cherry and pomegranate fruit. It’s such a savory wine and somehow really refreshing at the same time. Tempranillo tends to work well with chicken in general, as long as it’s not the superripe oaked style that some Ribera del Duero wines can be. If it’s made classically, it’s so versatile.”
12. 2005 Calabretta ‘Vigne Vecchie’ Sicilia Nerello Mascalese
“This is basically declassified Etna Rosso. Calabretta was aging his wines for so long before release in these large Slavonian oak casks—a little like traditional Barolo—so the DOCG claimed it wasn’t “typical.” And it’s true that most Etna Rossos I’ve had are more fruit-forward, while this bottling always tastes rustic—in a good way. It has a little more structure, that dark volcanic minerality that comes through, dried herbs, truffle, and tar. His current release is 2005, so it’s so cool how little the wine costs for what it is. I also just love the fact that he’s making wine on a freaking volcano. I mean, it just erupted again a few weeks ago.”